After my first dabble with weed and the delicious peacefulness it allowed my troubled adolescent mind, I was completely intrigued by the drug. Despite my parents open use of it, I kept my experimentations quiet and tried my best to keep it hidden from them.
I had this friend, whom for the sake of this story I will call Dawn. She was hands-down the coolest person I’d ever met. Tiny, busty, raven-haired and wicked-eyed, she carried this air of untamed wildness about her which I was instantly drawn to. Her mother, a single parent, was a stripper who worked til the wee hours of the morning and had a highly relaxed approach to parenting, so Dawn and her little sister had free reign of the house nearly every night. This became the setting of most my early experience in drug taking . It was a crappy, dirty, dilapidated little house overgrown with weeds and moss and infested with cockroaches, but to me, it was the happiest little shithole on earth.
My mother and stepfather had just announced they were going to have a baby, and I was having trouble adjusting from life as an only child with a single mum, to my new roles as stepdaughter and soon-to-be big sister. I felt horribly displaced, and the once close relationship I had with my mother was rapidly turning into one filled with resentment and conflict.
I began to spend more and more time at Dawn’s, avoiding my hormonal mother and annoying stepfather as much as possible, and soon became a pro at bong and pipe smoking. Dawn’s mum was also a smoker and always had a decent stash in her bedroom, which Dawn would liberally help herself to. We always seemed to have it and never seemed to have to pay for it.
Dawn and I were born a day apart in May, and around the time of our thirteenth birthdays we started experimenting with alcohol and Dexedrine, or ‘Dexies’ as we called them, the drug prescribed to children with ADHD. There was this stereotypical uber-geek in our grade who everyone was really mean to, so Dawn and I befriended him out of pity. The kid was a certifiable genius, and it turns out he’d been prescribed Ritalin and Dexies since he was a kid for his ‘ADHD’, which he didn’t believe in, so he’d been selling the pills on the downlow to some of the older kids at school for a tidy profit. Because Dawn and I were nice to him, he gave them to us for free.
They were amazing. They gave me so much extra energy and motivation to study and complete my assignments. I paid attention in class and my grades started improving. I had always been clever but far too preoccupied with partying and seeking out the alternative people, the other lost souls. Being on Dexies gave me the ability to straddle the best of both worlds. I could get all my schoolwork done and then party and get high at Dawn’s all night. The weed made it possible to sleep even while on the Dexies so I felt great. I was young, had a crazy cool best friend to experience the world with, and life was fucking awesome.
The first time I experienced any sort of repercussion for my weed habit was towards the end of the eighth grade. My baby brother had been born by then, so my parents had their hands full with him, meaning I was able to fly under the radar and get away with a lot more than I should have been able to. I had been smoking cigarettes and weed daily, and taking Dexedrine and getting drunk at least once a week, for almost the entire year without them noticing.
This is all changed one Monday morning, first period, in the gym locker room. I was getting changed into my sports uniform when Amy, and older girl who’d been held back a year, announced in an authoritive tone, “You guys know that the school security guards search our bags for cigarettes and drugs while we’re out playing sport, right?” There was some tense murmuring amongst the other girls. “Really, Amy?” I said skeptically. “Pretty sure they’re not allowed to do that.” Amy laughed at me. “It doesn’t matter what they’re allowed to do, idiot, they do whatever they want,” she scoffed. “All they have to say is they suspected you were high and they’re allowed to search you and your property.” I didn’t want to admit it, but that actually sounded like it could be true. I fished around in my bag for my pipe, lighter, and baggie. I only had about a gram’s worth in there, but better to be safe than sorry, I thought, stuffing the paraphernalia into my back shorts pocket.
Unfortunately, as I was in the middle of doing this, my gym teacher, Miss Hartley, walked into the locker room, magically appearing right behind me in a case of the Worst Timing Ever. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Without looking at her, I walked briskly around the corner towards the shower stalls, trying to appear natural while also frantically trying to shove the tell-tale steel pipe down my shorts. She barked my name and chased me around the corner, grabbing my arm before I had the chance to lock myself in one of the stalls. “Give me the stuff,” she said, soft but firmly. I stared at her, wide eyed, and shook my head vehemently. I seemed incapable of producing words. “Give it to me now.” I still just stood there in dumb shock. “Alright then,” Miss Hartley said, starting to sound pissy. By this stage all my classmates had rallied behind her, watching the scene unfold with a mix of horror and delight. “Looks like we’re going to the principals office to wait for the police. You didn’t want to give it up willingly, so now you can be formally searched.”
I got suspended for a week. As I sat outside the principals office, waiting for my mother to come and get me, I was literally shaking with fear. I knew that she had been told over the phone of my suspension, but was unsure if she knew the reason why. Ever since she’d had my brother, she had a really short fuse with me, and I was absolutely terrified of her temper. Waiting there, in that stark grey room, trembling and sweating, I experienced my first proper anxiety attack. Of course, I wouldn’t hear that term for several years, and at the time I simply thought I was going to die. My throat closed up and I lost my ability to take in air. My lower jaw was chattering uncontrollably and I started blacking out.
When my mother arrived, I was a sobbing mess. She burst into the tiny waiting room and immediately scooped me up in her arms, patting my hair and telling me it was alright, everything was going to be alright. Her reaction was so unexpectedly nice that I cried even more. In that moment, I loved her so much for being kind to me, for not admonishing me for doing something I had witnessed her doing my whole life, for not being the hyprocritical bitch I had completely expected her to be. “What can I really say, darling?” She said in the car on the way home. “I can’t exactly punish you for this. I am disappointed you got caught, though,” she said, winking at me conspiratorially. “We’ll just tell your father and grandparents that you’re sick and need a week off school.”
Looking back at this incident, with the benefit of over a decades worth of hindsight, it’s clear that this was a pivotal moment in my life as a stoner. This was the moment that weed became my friend, my ally, the naughty secret that my mother and I could share, the bad thing that I was actually allowed to do, an act of encouraged rebellion. All I ever really wanted was my mother to love and approve of me. With weed, I had found an escape from the painful reality that was teenage life, and it carried the added bonus of my mothers respect.
How could I not fall in love? I was doomed by the green enchantress from this day forward.